Federal grant allows BHA to offer a helping hand
BRATTLEBORO -- A program that helps residents of the Brattleboro Housing Authority work their way out of public housing got a boost this month when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that the program would be funded for another year.
The Brattleboro Housing Authority will receive $69,000 in federal aid to support its Public Housing Family Self-sufficiency Program, which helps the housing authority hire program coordinators who work with residents to find supportive services that can help them find a job, and ultimately alternative housing.
"We're very happy about this," said BHA Executive Director Chris Hart. "We've had huge success with this program. It is one of the best investments we can make to help people become more self sufficient."
The program coordinators who are hired with the help of the HUD funding work directly with housing authority tenants to help them connect with local organizations that assist with job training, placement opportunities, as well as to secure transportation and employment interviewing skills and strategies.
Hart said almost 100 residents have taken advantage of the program, and are working with the program coordinator to find and keep jobs.
This will be the fourth year BHA has offered the program to its residents.
"With what is going on in Washington there is no guarantee that we would get this money so we are very grateful that it has been supported once again," said Hart. "I think they recognize the importance and success of this program nationally because it helps people be independent and self sufficient. It works."
The federal money that was awarded to BHA was part of a $16.3 million grant that will help hire more 300 program coordinators across the country.
"This funding delivers critical services to Brattleboro public housing residents to help them move towards financial success and independence," said Barbara Fields, HUD New England Regional Administrator.
Federal public housing rules tie a tenant's income to his or her rent subsidy, and so when public housing residents begin to make money and work steadily, their rent goes up. As part of the Public Housing Family Self-sufficiency Program, money that is earned while a tenant is enrolled in the program is placed in an escrow account. That money does not have an impact on the tenant's rent, and at the end of the program the money can be used to find housing.
Hart says the program has had real success in Brattleboro, with BHA tenants being able to save money that ultimately is used for a down payment on their own home.
"We have people right now who have a tidy sum of money," Hart said. "The escrow feature is the piece that holds it all together."
Hart also said organizations throughout Brattleboro support the program and work with tenants to help them.
Local banks help tenants develop financial skills, job placement counselors work with program coordinators and local employers are willing to take a chance on BHA tenants who are making their way back into the workforce.
"We have enormous support in the community for this program," said Hart. "There is a very wide range of services that are offered. It is a very, very high leverage program, and it helps more people work toward self-sufficiency. This means that more people will be able to find housing and get more control over their own destinies."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer
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